© Copyright 2019 The Rakshin Project By Sakshi
(DISCLAIMER: The purpose of these essays is not to provide solutions but to shed light on perspectives that go largely unnoticed and/or ignored. I encourage that you do not read to seek answers, but to understand the loop holes or gaps in arguments that try to legitimise violence against women, and to offer you reasonable and very serious explanations that can fill those gaps.)
In Part One, I brought up the concept of violence against women and children, that of sexual and physical, as “terrorism”. With that being said, it is hard for many to accurately identify such violence as an act of “terrorism” as terrorist acts are commonly understood to be clearly “politically motivated”. Furthermore, to many, domestic abusers are rarely ever perceived as committing any “politically motivated” acts, which contributes to the pushback against labelling violence against women and children as “terrorism”. This is the premise of our first pushback to labelling violence against women in the domestic sphere as “terrorism”.
Because domestic violence is commonly understood as an act of interpersonal aggression towards their partners and children, this insinuates that there are no cultural, social or political context wherein which this violence occurs. It is almost as if the perpetrators of abuse and the victims of it exist in a world where nothing exists — a void if you will — and that there are no factors that create conditions for such violence to occur in the first place. Furthermore, legal systems treat acts of domestic violence and abuse as mere misdemeanours, nor do they consider the possibility that there may be ulterior motives held by abuser. Additionally, because domestic abuse is seen as the absolute opposite — the antithesis — of politically motivated violence, this gives domestic violence and abuse a ground to flourish on, and has the legal justice system unwilling to prosecute abusers as they fear the infringement of the private sphere.
But terror has a function — it is directed at a community of people, and in this case, it is women and children — which is designed to maintain domination and control, to defend privileges and reinforce advantages enjoyed by patriarchs. Acts of terrorism, as popularly understood, are efforts to undermine the targeted group and to maintain power and privileges of political groups through violence and the threat of violence as well. Violence that occurs in the private sphere functions to maintain power arrangements and privileges in the household. What this does is that it coercively controls women into behaving in a manner that is detrimental to them while additionally, has them accepting disadvantageous social arrangements within the home through institutionalised methods of terror creation.
The family unit has largely been seen as part of the private sphere — this has two sociocultural impacts. First, it invisibilises all members within the family, especially those who are women and children, thereby silencing them. Secondly, due to this invisibilisation, the issue of women’s domestic roles and the gender inequalities that they may face in the workplace, or their socialisation in the world goes largely ignored. The treatment that women and children experience in their domestic lives presupposes serious implications for their status and power in the political sphere. However, the family is the main source of society’s power structure, and plays an integral role in sustaining power relations that exist in public and, correspondingly, the political sphere.
Consider the ways in which women are treated in their domestic lives and how it fundamentally impacts their social and political status and opportunities. This is largely relegated to the private sphere, and for many, it is difficult for them to see the unrecognised political aspects. However, when women are required and coerced into maintaining the household, it requires that they forego the opportunity for jobs in social or political fields, thus making it less likely that she can adequately inform herself about social issues that affect her, or for her to participate in democratic processes. This creates a sense of inferiority, uncertainty and fear that prevents her for participating in society that exists outside of her home, which results in her being silenced about her interests and well-being, thus reinforcing her invisibility in the political sphere. Which makes it important to note — domestic violence is, more often than not, a private means of political exclusion and oppression.
Which means that claiming that domestic abusers lack any political element is to fail to recognise the various power distributions within the family that affects a woman’s status and opportunities in broader public and political communities. If terrorism is to be understood as a quest for power, and if we understand that the family serves as a source and blueprint of political power in society, then it is should come as no surprise to find that women are often targets of terrorism via enforced domestic roles and/or threats of violence as the sole motivating factor is to maintain patriarchal power dynamics within the private sphere.
The final point that also needs to be made is the fact that the private sphere, such as the home, is inherently political. Actions committed within the domestic sphere that perpetuate inequalities are analogous to actions that are committed in the public context. While it can be countered that it is implausible that most men abuse and terrorise their wives with the sole purpose to oppress and exclude them politically in the public arena, it would be more useful to understand the political space to include the private or domestic sphere in its analysis, therefore allowing for any actions that take place within the home as political.
The Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports has given a directive to our NGO – Sakshi to design, customize and deliver Workshops on Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act 2012 (POCSOA 2012) for the NSS Students of 40,000 Colleges across India. Workshops started in 2018.